The Debtor

June 7, 2010
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Reflections in the golden columns showed hundreds of people in the main courtyard of the mighty King’s palace. At the front of the yard was a low stage, just high enough to allow all the people to see what was happening. Purple curtains blew in the harsh wind. Though many people gathered in the courtyard, very few of them were talking.
A man called Nahshon walked into the courtyard. He walked slowly with a slight limp that he had gotten from a tavern brawl. Nahshon was the son of a wealthy lord who had died a few years earlier.
The wealthy lord took good care of his money and, when he died, left his whole estate in Nahshon’s care. But Nahshon’s life style consisted of careless drinking, foolish gambling, and loose women, all very expensive pastimes. It took only a few years for him to squander all of his inheritance. In those years he changed from the gentle, loving father and husband he had been, to a cruel and violent drunkard. Every day Nahshon could be seen walking to the taverns and bars of the city with all the money his family had left in his pocket. And every night young mothers would cover their children’s eyes so they would not see the drunk and broken man walking home to his wife and children who would have nothing to eat that night. The only reason his family had not starved was because of the King. Every few weeks, the man would go to the generous King and beg him for a loan, promising to pay it back as soon as he found a job. It had been almost four years since his father had died and the man had a job. Now people turned away from him. No one wanted to be seen talking to the man who caused so much talk in the city.
Today was different than all the other days when the man came the palace to see the King. On this blustery day Nahshon had been summoned. It was the day every five years the king called all the people who owed him money to his palace. Many people borrowed money from the King in a tight spot, but no one had ever borrowed so much.
Nahshon owed the King 10,000 talents, 150,000 years worth of wages. All the people wondered what the King’s punishment would be to a man who had failed to pay back so much money.
A trumpet blared.
“LONG LIVE THE KING!” the crowd roared as the King stepped out of the interior of the palace onto the stage in the courtyard. He raised His hand and the crowd quieted.
The King was majestic with brown shoulder-length hair and a soft demeanor. His bright blue eyes that seemed to pierce to the depths of a man’s soul. He was courageous and just, fair and kind, strong and gentle. On cold winter evenings He would walk the streets of the poorest neighborhoods in His kingdom, giving food and blankets to the children who lived on the streets. Widows received “anonymous” gifts that helped them to keep their homes. If a father lost his job, the King was the first to offer a no-interest loan. Even the coldest of hearts admired the King and loved being in His presence. Never had a ruler been so adored by His people.
The King’s steward addressed the crowd. “All those who have been summoned please move to the front please. When your name is called you may approach the King.” And so he stared calling names, beginning with the people that owed the smallest amounts of money. All those there were ready to make arrangements to pay off the money they owed immediately, except for one.
At first, several hundred stood in the courtyard waiting to speak with the King of their debts. When the sun was overhead, only about seventy-five were left, and by the end of the workday only a few were left.
Nahshon had not gone this long without a drink of wine in months. All day long he had stood in the same place waiting for his turn to speak with the King. Withdrawal was sinking in, and he was getting mad. The taverns were opening and Ram, his drinking buddy, would get the choice wine.
Several thoughts went through his head as he approached the King’s throne.
This better not take too long. Obviously He has no care for other people’s time. What a jerk…
The King turned to Nahshon.
“Nahshon, do you know why you have been brought here?” He asked in His deep, rich voice.
Nahshon fought back the urge to tell the King to go find someone else to bother over finances and said exactly what he was expected to say.
“Yes, my King, I have run up a great debt to you.”
The King sighed. “Come. Walk with me,” He said. Nahshon followed Him as they walked into a beautiful garden next to the courtyard.
With sorrow on the edge of His voice, the King began listing all the debts that Nahshon had collected over the past few years. A talent or two here, a few minas there, even just 40 shekels when Nahshon passed Him on the street, the King remembered everything. Nahshon was getting even more impatient, still struggling to keep his extremely disrespectful thoughts to himself. As the King named the final debt, only a day before, He stopped walking and turned.
“You have heard your debt. What do you say for yourself?”
Nahshon had no trouble answering boldly. “I am indeed guilty of all the debts you have named.”
He said, “Then you and your family and all your possessions shall be sold in order to pay your debt. This is My judgment on you for your debts to Me.” He turned abruptly and walked briskly back towards the courtyard.
Nahshon realized what was occurring. The King was going to sell him as a slave to pay his debt. He was going to take away his freedom, his nights out having fun, drinking, and partying. Oh and his family was pretty important too. Nahshon would not let that happen, and he would say whatever he had to in order to keep it from happening.
“Please no!” Nahshon yelled after Him. “I will do anything, please! I will work in your house or in your fields, but, please, please, do not take my family’s freedom! I beg of you!” Nahshon was on the grass at the King’s feet.
The King turned, pulled Nahshon to his feet and embraced him.
“I forgive you.” He whispered gently in his ear.
Nahshon awkwardly returned the embrace. The King forgave everything, all of his debts without and second thought. Any other person would have been overjoyed and thankful, but Nahshon’s heart was cold. He was still annoyed that Ram was going to get the best wine.
When the King bid him goodbye, Nahshon breathed a sigh of relief. He did not have to deal with that crazy old tyrant again, not for a few days anyway.
Across the city a young man called Adiv was closing up his market stall. Most of his life had been at the market selling cloth that his widowed mother and three sisters hand-made on their looms. Everyday Adiv worked hard in order to provide food for his family. Most days he was able to sell enough of their fine cloth to buy food for the next day, but every once in a while, he would have to borrow money from someone. One evening, a few days before the King’s summoning, Adiv had borrowed money from Nahshon. The older man had been so drunk that Adiv was not sure Nahshon remembered lending him the money.
The day of the audience at the palace was a bad day at the market, because so many men were indebted to the King. Adiv had made very little money, just enough to buy a loaf of bread for his sisters’ breakfast in the morning. He walked home to his family with his head hung in shame. A proper man would bring home enough food for all of the family, like his father had done. He could only provide barely enough to keep them alive. Adiv had never felt so discouraged in his life. No matter how hard Adiv tried, he would always feel like a failure.
Dark had fallen on the city. The darkness only depressed Adiv more. It was late and his mother would be worried. Adiv was so distracted by his thoughts that he did not hear the shuffling of the drunken man sneaking up behind him.
“GIVE ME BACK MY MONEY!” Nahshon yelled in a slurred voice. He knocked Adiv to the ground, grabbed him by the neck, and began chocking him. “I WANT IT NOW!”
Adiv attempted to cry out, but alcohol gave Nahshon the strength to pin down a man half his age. However strong he may have been, Nahshon’s yelling immediately attracted the attention of a sentry nearby. He ran over and pulled Nahshon off of Adiv.
“What is going on here?” he exclaimed.
“He owes me money and can not pay it back. I demand that he go to prison now until he can pay me my money!” Nahshon replied.
The officer looked at Adiv, who was about to cry. “Is this true?”
“Please sir,” Adiv said; “I can pay it back if he will give me just a few days. Please just a few days.”
“No, I need my money now!” Nahshon said again.
“I’m sorry, you can get your parents to come pay the man in the morning, but for tonight I am afraid you will have to go to prison,” the officer said.
And so Adiv went to the debtors prison and Nahshon went home and beat his wife.
The King rose early the next morning to overlook the affairs of his kingdom. While overlooking the arrests that occurred overnight he discovered the actions of Nahshon. The King called his steward.
“Bring me Nahshon the drunkard and Adiv the boy arrested last night.”
“Yes, my King.” The steward had never seen the King pace his room like this, so tense and angry.
A short while later they found themselves in the King’s throne room. All present were scared by the look of wrath King’s face. For a few moments he was silent with His back turned to them.
He whirled around, face red, and said, “ ‘You evil servant! I forgave your entire debt when you begged me for mercy. Shouldn’t you be compelled to be merciful to your fellow servant who asked for mercy?’ Throw the old man in jail until he pays his debt to me!”
Nahshon was taken away snarling at the King under his breath, and Adiv found himself in the position of steward’s apprentice in the Kings palace.

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